Cyclists Courtney Cushard and Maggie Strauss were frustrated. Once a year they’d meet tons of like-minded women during social biking events like the Tour de Donut, but then they’d be the only two ladies at weekly group rides around town.
“For most women that are starting out, showing up to a shop that you’ve never been to, with a bunch of people you don’t know that wear spandex and are faster than you, is really intimidating,” said Cushard. “You never know what’s going to happen — if you’re going to get left behind, if you’re going to embarrass yourself, if they might make fun of you for something.”
Cushard and Strauss’ solution: The Monthly Cycle, which they founded in July 2013. It’s a riding group by women, for women, without the intimidation and expectations of other cycling troupes.
“We meant for it to be a faster ride, but it’s turned into a social ride — a little bit slower and more relaxed — and that’s fine! If this is what the ladies want, this is what we’re going to do,” Cushard said.
The group is named after its flagship ride, which takes place on the first Monday of each month. Riders gather in front of Gelateria de Leone on South Grand at 7 p.m. for a leisurely 15-mile course that ends at Tower Pub on Morganford for “the best $2 beer you ever had!” (And free popcorn.)
To accommodate those who want to get their sweat on, the group will occasionally organize The Quickie. There’s also a slower-paced ride for those just starting out called The Light Flow. The group rides all year, albeit with higher participation in the summer, exploring different areas of the city each time.
Drop the Boys
So, what does the women’s-only ride look like? I can tell you from experience. For someone relatively new to St. Louis, it looks like a fun way to explore the city’s streets without getting lost. For someone new to cycling, it’s a safe way to learn the dos and don’ts of navigating an urban environment. For someone who’s looking for her tribe, it’s a group of easygoing, fun women who enjoy being active and adventurous.
On the hot and steamy July night I joined the group, we made a stop at Ted Drewes for custard and rode through the neighborhoods of St. Louis as the sun set. Families on front stoops shouted words of encouragement as we rode past, and we waved back. Every car at every intersection graciously let us pass. And that beer at Tower Pub? It was crisp and cool, and had never tasted better.
“It’s not just about girls riding bikes. It’s a pretty big deal. If you see a group of women riding together, no matter what they’re wearing or how fast they’re going, people think it’s cool,” said Cushard. “It’s about celebrating the fact that women can rides bikes. We can do it together, and we can have fun. We don’t have to be competitive all the time.”
Making a Difference
According to Cushard, The Monthly Cycle has an impact on three levels: on the individual, the city and the cycling community.
St. Louis benefits by more people riding bikes; it’s better for the economy and the community. “It’s a way of seeing your neighbors. It makes you more connected and, therefore, more invested,” she said.
The cycling community at large, which suffers from a serious gender gap, also benefits from more female riders, who can also advocate for safer roads and more bike lanes. “An all-girl bike ride isn’t just a bike ride, it’s a statement,” said Cushard,
And, finally, it has a positive impact on an individual level. “It’s empowering to make safer and healthier choices,” Cushard said. “It’s one more opportunity to do something positive for yourself, meet like-minded people, learn something new and challenge yourself.”
Want to get involved with The Monthly Cycle? Look for the second annual Diva Cup in October for a fun afternoon of bike-riding games, including a scavenger hunt and the Drag Drag Race. Beginners, newbies, boys and girls are welcome to join. Exact date to be announced on the Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/themonthycycle/. (Yes, Cushard knows it’s misspelled).
All you need to join a regularly scheduled ride is a bike (any bike), helmet and a light. Apparel ranges from a summer dress (with shorts underneath) to the more typical cycling gear and everything in between. The Monthly Cycle is committed to trans inclusivity.
Author: Kimberley Donoghue is a regular contributor to Terrain magazine
pictures are full of all white women – great trans inclusivity, what about racial inclusivity?